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While heroes across Tamriel journey to reclaim their souls from that jerk Molag Bal in The Elder Scrolls Online, the MMO's devs have kept to their own quest to vanquish lingering glitches and loopholes such as a pretty serious duping exploit and the dreaded Spell of Disappearing Bank Items. In a message posted today on the official forums, director Matt Firor addressed these issues and other problems in a general evaluation of TESO's current state and the studio's plans for improving it.
One highly visible aspect of TESO's gold-farmer invasion is the presence of bot groups sitting right on top of boss monster spawns in open dungeons to constantly gather high-quality loot and gold. Partly at issue is the game's open-tapping system, where any player can hit a monster once or twice and benefit from full experience and looting privileges. Beyond banning reported bot accounts, Zenimax is still figuring out a long-term solution its latest proposal is a loot lockout timer that's drawn heated debate over its potential to hamper character progression.
"I play the game every day; I see too, and yes, they drive me crazy," Firor wrote. "We have had a daily running battle with them ever since the game launched, and we continue to take measures to keep them away from players, even when it isn t always apparent that we are."
Firor also revealed black market reports account for nearly 85 percent of calls and emails sent to the game's customer support team. It's a good sign of an active community stepping up to do its part to banish the gold-selling affliction out of Tamriel for good, but all the reports are also stretching the response time for open tickets to a lengthy wait another concern Firor is aware of.
The recently discovered duping bug a simple procedure of cloning stacks of items using guild banks hasn't affected TESO's economy, Firor claimed. "We did turn off guild banks to limit the spread of the problem, but that was only until we put up a new version of the game that fixed the exploit later that evening," he explained. It'd be nice to see a more thorough description of how Zenimax detects which items were duped or not, as it's rather easy to launder copied crafting materials through secondary accounts and the sale of crafted items using said materials.
Firor concluded with the announcement of an updated version of the game soon appearing on testing servers with numerous fixes and adjustments to class abilities and item balance. Craglorn, the first adventure zone, will also appear for Veteran-ranked guilds to try out 12-man raid content and 4-man dungeon challenges.
Have you played every single game in your Steam library? No? Neither have I and that accomplishment is apparently just a small sand grain in the over 288 million games in Steam collections that have never felt a press of the Play button. That's a surprising figure from a new report by Ars Technica researching the most active and popular games on Steam straight from the recorded statistics of some of the platform's 75-million-strong community.
Ars' method for its number flood involves sampling registered games and their played hours via profiles and their unique Steam IDs. With the help of a server for computational muscle, Ars randomly polled more than 100,000 profiles daily for two months to pull together an idea of which games see the most time on everyone's monitors. In other words, your Backlog of Shame (don't deny it, everyone has one) probably took part in some SCIENCE at some point. Exciting.
Some caveats exist, though. The data Ars looked at for its research only extends back to 2009, when Steam brought in its "hours played" tracking system. Owned and played/unplayed games are thus slightly skewed to not account for older releases from the early noughties, and any length of time spent in offline mode wouldn't get picked up by Steam either. Still, Ars claims its results deliver a good picture of Steam gaming trends for the past five years albeit with some imperfections.
Predictably, Valve's personal products stack high on the list in terms of ownership and most played hours. Dota 2 takes the crown with an estimated 26 million players who ganked faces at some point in the MOBA, but free-to-play FPS Team Fortress 2 follows closely behind with a little over 20 million users. Counter-Strike: Source rounds out the top three with nearly 9 million players, but it's also collecting dust in over 3 million libraries.
As for non-Valve games, Skyrim wins in activity, barely edging out Counter-Strike: Global Offensive with 5.7 million estimated active owners. Civilization V kept 5.4 million players hooked for Just One More Turn, and Garry's Mod boasts 4.6 million budding physics artists.
Want to know what the most unplayed Steam game is? It's Half-Life 2: Lost Coast, the Source tech demo given free to pretty much everyone on Steam who bought or fired up Half-Life 2. It hasn't been touched by an approximate 10.7 million players. I guess that old fisherman is feeling pretty lonely right now.
My favorite stat is the total of played hours divided by game mode, more specifically the separate multiplayer clients of the Steam versions of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 and Black Ops. The single-player campaigns for each respective title sits modestly within the mid-20-hour range, but the multiplayer side balloons well into the hundreds of hours. It's a pretty obvious indicator of where the biggest chunk of popularity resides in FPS gaming, but it's not like you wouldn't get weird looks for claiming you play Call of Duty for the story anyway.
See more of Ars' results in both number and pretty orange graph form in its report.
Every Monday, keen screen-grabber Ben Griffin brings you a sumptuous 4K resolution gallery to celebrate PC gaming's prettiest places.
Skyrim is a permanent hard drive fixture for many here at PC Gamer. We don't tend to go questing for hours on end like it's 2011, but some worlds are interesting enough to warrant a revisit even years later. There's a fantastic mod community that's pushed Bethesda's engine further than anyone thought possible, but it's easy to forget how good vanilla Skyrim looks with just a little enhancement. To demonstrate, Ben has gone wandering in the wilds to bring you this week's set of shots, from Markath to Riften and beyond.
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Every Tuesday Andy straps on the Oculus Rift and dives headfirst into the world of virtual reality. Is it really the future of PC gaming? Let s find out.
Now that the Facebook buyout story is yesterday s chip paper, everyone has stopped talking about Oculus Rift. Not me, though. The headset is a permanent fixture on my desk, and I m always keeping my eye on sites like RiftEnabled and Oculus VR Share for new demos to try. It s a minefield, though. The open nature of the hardware means there s a lot of crap out there in Rift land, but it s amazing that most of the good ones I feature in The Rift Report are made by one person in their spare. Imagine what a team of 100 developers with a blockbuster budget could do.
A surprise ending in Malfunction
This demo was created in Hutong Games Unity plugin PlayMaker, which lets you create 3D adventure games with little or no coding experience. It s brief, lasting only a couple of minutes, but it s brilliantly scripted and animated. If you have an Oculus Rift, I advise playing it before reading on, because there s a surprise at the end that you should see for yourself.
I wake up in my apartment and wander into the kitchen where my wife is making coffee. I stroll past a mirror and notice that I can see my body, and spend five minutes tilting my head and watching my avatar copy my movements. Looking down and seeing a virtual body while using the Rift never feels quite right, but this is one of the best examples of it I ve seen so far.
It s a fairly mundane domestic situation, until I find the gun. My wife starts yelling, understandably, but it s in Polish (I think) and I have no idea what she s saying. Seemingly unperturbed by her gun-waving husband, she turns to pour the coffee and, suddenly, there s a flash of electricity and she falls to the floor and starts convulsing violently. The screen begins to flicker, revealing that my wife is, in fact, a robot, and I ve been projecting some kind of VR skin onto her.
The machine rises from the floor, rushes towards me, and grabs me by the neck, lifting me in the air effortlessly. Why would they make these robot wives so strong? Its eyes are glowing red with fury, but I still have the pistol. I squeeze the trigger and it keels over. Terminated.
Retrofitting VR into Skyrim with Perception
This program lets you inject Oculus Rift support into games that otherwise don t have it. Titles supported include Dishonored, Dear Esther, Skyrim, Borderlands 2, and Mirror s Edge, and although the effect isn t always perfect, it s still a thrill to explore these worlds in VR.
Skyrim feels much more massive in scale, especially when you have to crane your neck to see the peak of the Throat of the World. The rat-infested alleys of Dishonored s Dunwall feel grimier and more claustrophobic. Each game has its own quirks that you ll have to deal with, usually involving changing FOV settings, but most problems can be overcome by searching the forums.
Spying on the neighbours in Private Eye
Private Eye is inspired by Alfred Hitchcock s film Rear Window, in which a housebound photographer spies on his neighbours in an attempt to unravel what he thinks is a murder plot. The influence is clear, from the layout of the buildings, to the cast on your leg. You can zoom in with your binoculars, adjusting the focus to follow people and pick out clues in the environment.
In the demo I played, the structure was a little messy. I didn t really feel like I was piecing together clues to solve a mystery. It s more like an elaborate hidden object game, mixing objectives that relate to the murderer you re trying to catch, and more ordinary things like finding an old woman s missing cat. But, as simplistic as it is, it s a novel use of the Rift hardware, and professionally made.
I love the film noir soundtrack and the amount of detail there is to pick out in the world. This is the result of three weeks spent pretty much entirely in my room going slightly mad, says its creator, who recently showed the game off at Rezzed. To see so many people enjoying Private Eye puts all the sweat, tears and sleepless nights into perspective.
Download Private Eye
If you have a question about the Oculus Rift, ask Andy on Twitter, or leave a comment below, and he ll answer it in next week s column. Even the silly ones.
Does the Rift affect your eyesight once you remove it and try to adjust to natural light again? Is the transition odd? Dominic Rogers
Not really. You d think it would be more jarring, but I don t feel any sudden change in light when I emerge from the Rift after extended periods of time. But the longest I ve used the Rift for in one session is about 40 minutes while playing Euro Truck Simulator 2, until it got too hot and I had to take it off. I imagine if you spent five hours in the thing, taking it off might be more of a shock to the senses.
How easy is it to switch between the Rift and your monitors? Rich Smith
The way I have it set up, there s no need to switch. My computer recognises the Rift as a duplicate display, so when I load a game up, it appears on both the monitor and the in the Rift. On the monitor it looks like the screenshots above, with two separated images.
What are the top things that induce barf? Do games need to adapt their design, or will players just get used to it? Did you? Marsh Davies
Different things make me queasy at different times. Often I ll get it if I m looking down at my character s legs, then suddenly look up. Others when I m banking sharply in a flying game like Elite: Dangerous. But it seems to affect people differently, so what s fine for me might be bad for you. There are people who can t use the Rift for more than five minutes without feeling like they re going to hurl.
I m sure Oculus have people investigating this, because they ll need to consider the health and safety implications before they release it. You know that warning you always ignore about taking a break every hour while playing games? Surely it must be an even shorter amount of time in the Rift. Even as a seasoned VR user, I m occasionally forced to take it off because I feel sick.
Rock, Paper, Shotgun - firstname.lastname@example.org (Nathan Grayson)
Oh Skywind, let me count the ways. For those not in the know, Skywind is a Skyrim mod that aims to transplant the entirety of The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind (aka, the best Elder Scrolls) into Skyrim’s more modern engine while maintaining the former’s gorgeously bizarre sense of style. Locations, NPCs, quests, the mudcrab merchant who essentially functioned as my best friend in middle school – everything’s going in. It’s an absurdly colossal undertaking, and yet unlike just about every other total conversion mod out there, it’s actually going places>. INCREDIBLY NOSTALGIA-PROVOKING video of Morrowind’s re-envisioned first areas below.
Sometimes it's difficult to have a surname that can double as an adjective for uncontrollable, mindless violence. Especially when your job is to report on games, which are exceptionally good at making enemies that are characterised by their uncontrollable, mindless violence. The overuse of the word 'savage' in gaming is a completely unwarranted defamation of my ancestors. After all, they were only responsible for around 28% of maulings in the UK's West Midlands area. Still, the damage is already done, so here's the "Savagery" trailer for Skywind, the excellent looking Skyrim mod that aims to fully recreate Morrowind.
The natural question, then: when's this out? Not for a while, it seems. In the comments of that video, it's creators set out only the vaguest of release targets. "For everyone asking, there is no final release date. We're not just being jerks and not telling you, it's just hard to say at this point. It's estimated for late 2014, but it all depends."
In fact, it's so not currently ready, that the makers are no longer allowing downloads of the current alpha stage. That's because the footage from the video is of the next planned build. The current one did little more than let you move through the terrain and interact with certain objects.
Even though it's still a long way off, the amount of activity that's recently been revealed about the project leaves me hopeful that it will eventually be finished. Previously, we've seen trailers showing just how pretty its environments are, and a lengthy video detailing how many people are involved in bringing Morrowind to a new home.
Rock, Paper, Shotgun - email@example.com (Graham Smith)
It was only December that Craig last came scampering along on the back of a Silt Strider, bouncily telling us all about Skywind, a mod project to port the world, creatures and mechanics of Morrowind to Skyrim’s fancier engine. Now there’s a new trailer showing features for the next update, and a thought occurs: maybe they’re going to pull this off.>
Rock, Paper, Shotgun - firstname.lastname@example.org (Duncan Harris)
An occupational risk of Christmas is that the great mead (Jaffa Cakes) hall of my in-laws’ living room will inspire me to reinstall Skyrim, post a few fancy screenshots, and sure enough get a few emails asking for some mythical mod guide. Then comes the abuse: “He doesn’t want anyone to have his secret sauce!” Or: “His Skyrim doesn’t look like that – *snort* – those are Photoshopped.” Only they don t capitalise Photoshop because they didn t have to sit through that> publishing meeting, lucky old them.
They’re almost right about one thing: my Skyrim doesn’t look like that. Likewise, when someone asks me what English weather is like, I don t answer: It s like that evening drive between Dorset and Wiltshire when a torrential downpour gave way to just the best> sunshine that lit up the faces of distant historic buildings and cast painterly shadows across dale and field. What I tell them is that, nine times out of ten, it s shit. (more…)
It seems like everyone in Skyrim keeps a journal. Bandits, smugglers, fishermen, necromancers, and even serial killers all obsessively document their lives. Yet the most interesting person in Skyrim - that Dragonborn character - does not. It's time to change that, with the Journal of the Dragonborn mod. Take notes, jot down reminders, keep a diary, and record your exciting adventures for posterity, all from right there inside the game.
That last part - writing your journal entries inside the game, while playing - is especially appealing. I often take notes while I play Skyrim just in case I wind up innocently murdering dozens of people, but it either requires having my laptop crammed onto my small and already crowded desk, or alt-tabbing out of the game, which can occasionally cause a crash. I guess you could also use the Steam interface to open a browser window, but you won't have the Steam interface if you're using the Skyrim Script Extender, which I often am. Either way, being able to use an in-game journal to take notes, or read them later, is really convenient.
As for the actual point of keeping a diary while playing, well, I can think of several. Just a couple weeks ago I was looking through my old saved games and I came across one with a level 12 character named Mags. Obviously, I d put in at least a few hours with her at some point in the past couple years, and looking through her quest history I could see she did some of the Winterhold College quests. She also looked like kind of a badass.
Problem is, I can't remember a damn thing about who this character was or what sort of goals I had for her. Her personality, her loyalties, her alignment, her back-story... I honestly can't recall. Plus, she was just standing up on a mountain, and I have no idea where she was headed or what she was doing whenever it was I decided to take a break.
This mod means I can avoid that in the future. It'll be great, years from now, to load up an old character, open their journal, and read the details about who they are and what my plans were for them, in case I've forgotten. Instead of staring blankly at a forgotten character, wondering who they were, I'll be able to pull up something like this:
The journal is also useful for general day-to-day reminders. Has this happened to you? You re leaving a dungeon, loaded with so much loot that picking up even a single mushroom will render you immobile. You can t fast-travel because some mudcrab or slaughterfish has spotted you from a mile away, and you don t feel like wading into the water to deal with it, so you have to spend some time actually running through Skyrim for a change. Along the way, you spot something interesting: maybe a camp, maybe a cave, maybe just an interesting looking spot on the map, something you want to remember specifically, in a way that a map marker just can't capture.
Speaking of loads of treasure, here's another use for the journal if you're a massive slob like myself. I have an Orc character who owns every house in Skyrim and has stuffed each house with several dozen mounds of loot. For a while I was being careful: putting weapons in racks and armor in wardrobes and valuables in chests, but after a while, I just started running into whichever house was closest and dumping a giant pile of treasure on the floor before running back out.
Not only am I deeply ashamed of my haphazard hoarding, I occasionally need to actually find something specific that I dumped somewhere. For instance, I collected dozens of dragon bones and scales, and later it took me hours of house-scouring to find them when I finally wanted to do some crafting. I also have a special enchanted set of armor that allows me to carry more loot, which I of course dumped somewhere in a random loot pile. Now, at least, when I do something stupid like that, I can write it down.
So there are plenty of practical uses for the journal, but if you really want to do some role-playing, you can also use this journal as, well... a journal. Record your adventures. Write down the things you do. Keep a faithful diary of your heroic and exciting life. Export them from your game so you can read them whenever you want. Send them to someone. (Don t send them to me.)
>As for how it works: the journal opens up with a simple hotkey (X) and lets you type right there inside the game. You can save your entries, edit old ones, or delete ones you no longer need. There's a couple of choices on appearances, and a few different Skyrim fonts to choose from. You can also move the journal interface around the screen, re-size it, and change its opacity. It even enters the in-game date for each entry for you. Pretty cool!
Installation: You can subscribe via the Steam Workshop link or download the mod from the Nexus and drop them into your Skyrim data folder. You'll also need the Skyrim Script Extender and SkyUI installed. If you want to export your journal, you'll need a mod called FISS: it will let you save your journal as a .txt file.